Chardonnay is a wine grape of great fame, but fame can be both a blessing and a curse. On the upside, chardonnay makes a disproportionate percentage of the world's finest white wines, including those with bubbles. It is native to Burgundy in France, in whose medieval monasteries fine wine as we know it was born, so its track record for quality is exceptional. Chardonnay wines are far richer in texture than other whites, too, which allows vintners to boost its flavor and concentration with oak barrels, a technique otherwise reserved for red wines. However, though chardonnay has rightfully been one of the world's most sought-after wine grapes for centuries, it has become a victim of its own success in recent decades. The inevitable down slope of public opinion that awaits those who reach the heights of fashion is a cruel side effect of popularity that has led younger generations of wine drinkers to seek out alternatives — anything but chardonnay. But these wines are ripe for rediscovery because they have so much going for them. Those who prefer leaner, drier whites can look to Europe, but fans of stronger wines and those who appreciate the nutty flavors of whiskeys will love the lusciously plump California style. This lovely example from Sonoma Coast embodies this flavor profile, with its aromas of apple cake and pumpkin pie.
Joseph Carr chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, Calif. $16.99 (regularly $19.99; sale price through Feb. 25). PLCB Item #9451